Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki
Iesha Townsend, an advocate for a $15 minimum wage who works as a cashier at a McDonald ’s in Chicago, addresses a crowd at the Governor’s Mansion on Feb. 19 before Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signing of Senate Bill 1. The bill increases the minimum wage in Illinois in phases, beginning with a hike of $1 to $9.25 an hour beginning Jan. 1. Townsend said she will continue to fight for worker rights, including for unionization of low-wage workers.
By Jerry Nowicki
Capitol New s Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The state’s minimum wage will increase by $1 hourly, recreational marijuana will go on sale to those over 21 years of age, and some state taxes and licensing fees will increase as the new year kicks off.
The changes are among hundreds resulting from laws passed during a busy legislative session which adjourned in early June. Here's a look at some of them:
Officer suicide prevention: Illinois law enforcement officers will receive increased wellness and suicide prevention training in 2020 thanks to a new law sponsored by state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th).
“Suicide and mental health are some of the most serious issues facing our law enforcement community,” said Cunningham, who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This law will help officers recognize these issues and provide them with a better understanding of the mental health resources available to them.”
House Bill 2767 requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to develop a course addressing the issues of officer wellness and suicide prevention. The course will be included in the training requirements police officers must complete before graduating the police academy and will also need to be completed every three years after graduation.
The training will include recognizing signs of work-related cumulative stress, issues that may lead to suicide and solutions for intervention with peer support resources.
“Seeking help for these issues isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength,” Cunningham said. “We need to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in the first responder community and ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need.”
This year, Cunningham also cosponsored House Bill 2766, the First Responders Suicide Prevention Act, which implements training for individuals tasked with providing peer support counseling to colleagues, requires police and fire departments to develop disciplinary measures for those who violate confidentiality agreements, and creates a civil cause of action for employees whose employment status is adversely affected by information obtained during a counseling session. That law has already taken effect.
Minimum Wage: The minimum wage will increase by $1 to $9.25 hourly on Jan. 1, the first such increase since 2010. The wage will increase to $10 hourly in July before increasing $1 each January until it hits $15 by 2025.
Marijuana Legalization: With the legalization of adult-use marijuana in the state, Illinois residents will be allowed to possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 milligrams of a marijuana-infused product and five grams of cannabis concentrate. Non-residents can possess half those amounts.
Consumption of marijuana will still be banned in public places, however, unless a licensed marijuana facility or certain lounges obtain local government clearance for allowing use at their facilities.
Marijuana legalization will also provide for the expungement of low-level cannabis convictions and criminal records in the state, the first of which were filed in Chicago last month.
New Taxes, Fees for Capital Plan: Some new taxes and fees which will help fund a multiyear $45 billion capital infrastructure plan will also take effect starting in January.
Registration fees for passenger vehicles will increase to $151 from $101, while electric vehicle registration fees will increase to $251 annually from $34 every other year.
The licensing fee for a trailer weighing less than 3,000 pounds will increase to $118 from $18, with every weight class above that also seeing a $100 increase.
A new tax on parking garages will also take effect next month, with a 6 percent rate applied to hourly and daily garages and a 9 percent rate applied to monthly.
The state will also begin taxing the value of traded-in vehicles starting after $10,000 of value, down from $20,000.
Other New Laws
The maximum fine for hitting a construction worker with a vehicle will increase to $25,000 from $10,000.
Those violating “Scott’s Law” by failing to reduce speed or change lanes when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of the road will see increased fines in the new year as well. The minimum fine for a first offense will increase to $250 from $100, while the minimum for a second offense will be $750.
Money collected from such violations will go to a Scott’s Law Fund to produce driver education materials. The maximum fine will remain at $10,000. The law also increases the severity of violations that result in the death or harm to a first responder to a class 2 felony.
Passing a stopped school bus that has its “STOP” arm extended will now result in a $300 fine, up from $150 for the first offense. The second offense will cost drivers $1,000, up from $500.
Public locations must convert single-occupancy restrooms into all-gender restrooms and designate them for use by no more than one person at a time, or for families or assisted use. Public locations must change exterior signage as well.
Public buildings will be required to have baby changing facilities in any of their public restrooms.
The burial benefit for a firefighter, state police or local law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty will increase to $20,000 from $10,000.
The Illinois secretary of state will be required to allow applicants to choose between “male,” “female” or “nonbinary” when designating the applicant’s sex on their driver’s license or ID card.
Any report received by the Department of Children and Family Services alleging the abuse or neglect of a child by a person who is not the child's parent or immediate family must immediately be referred to the appropriate local enforcement agency and state's attorney for consideration of criminal investigation or other action.
Diesel trucks will be prohibited from idling for more than 10 minutes within one hour if the vehicle is within 200 feet of a residential area.
Graduate assistants will no longer be classified as “students,” but rather as “employees,” which grants them the right to collectively bargain.
Insurers in the state will be required to cover the costs of medically necessary epinephrine injectors, commonly referred to by the brand name EpiPen, for persons under 18 years old.
Hospitals must post information on how to enroll in health insurance through the Illinois health insurance marketplace.
The Illinois Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses have each compiled lists of new laws available at their respective websites, illinoissenatedemocrats.com and senategop.state.il.us.
Bob Bong contributed to this report.